We all know how to get strong teeth and bones, right? Drink your milk. Take calcium supplements. And, of course, now we add in Vitamin D, which has been all the rage lately. But is all this really the answer? Why is tooth decay still such an issue for many kids and adults? And why does periodontal bone loss and osteoporosis continue to be a problem for older adults? Are we missing something?
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The simple answer is YES! The fact is, we are often missing something when we choose to take single supplements rather than getting what our bodies need from whole food sources, which often contain the partnering nutrients required to get the most absorption and benefit. The vital nutrient most of us are missing when it comes to the health of our teeth and bones…Vitamin K2.
Most of us have heard of Vitamin K that we get from eating leafy green vegetables, but this is Vitamin K1, which plays an important role in blood clotting. But few of us have heard of Vitamin K2 (since the medical community hasn’t picked up on this key nutrient yet), the role of this particular vitamin, and where to find it.
What Does Vitamin K2 Do?
- Directs calcium in the body to the places we want it (in the teeth and bones)
- Moves calcium away from the places we do not want it (soft tissues like arteries and blood vessels-In fact, recent recommendations published in the Annals of Internal Medicine report that we should lower the dosages or even eliminate calcium supplements due to the risk of heart disease from calcium deposits in arteries and blood vessels. Interesting, huh?)
- Supports proper hormone function, aiding fertility
- Ensures proper fetal facial development (for proper jaw formation/straight teeth, discussed here and here) and pelvic development for girls making future childbirth easier (Labor and childbirth for primitive women was shorter and easier than it is for women today due to proper development of the pelvis, as reported in Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by Dr. Weston A. Price. In his book, Dr. Price refers to Vitamin K2 as “Activator X”.)
- Protects against cancer
Up until very recently (our grandparents or great-grandparents generation), Vitamin K2 was easy to obtain in the diet, but that is no longer the case. In order to obtain Vitamin K2 we have to be pretty diligent in our food and supplement choices.
Sources of Vitamin K2
- Natto-a fermented soy product consumed primarily in Japan
- Goose and chicken liver
- Hard cheeses like gouda
- Soft cheeses like brie
- Egg yolks that are a deep orange color from pastured chickens with plenty of bugs in their diet (You’ll see “vegetarian-fed” on egg cartons everywhere…but chickens aren’t vegetarians!)
- Butter and fat from grass-fed animals
- Fermented foods like sauerkraut or pickles-bacterial fermentation creates K2. But make sure it’s truly fermented with salt, not the conventional stuff in jars of vinegar. My favorite brand of sauerkraut and pickles is Bubbies.
Our great-grandparents generation ate liver weekly. Animals were raised on pasture and ate their natural diet compared to animals of today that are factory-farmed and fed primarily corn and soy, leaving their fat and eggs nutrient deficient. Our great-grandparents also ate more fat including butter, cheeses and eggs, unlike today where the medical community sings the praises of a low-fat diet. Where has that gotten us? Answer: sicker, fatter, nutrient-depleted, infertile, and producing a population of less robust humans.
Since the above list of foods can be difficult or impossible to obtain for many, we can find Vitamin K2 in supplement form. Vitamin K2 can be broken down into 2 types:
- MK-4 (menaquinone-4): a short-chain form found in butter, egg yolks and other animal-based foods
- MK-7 (menaquinone-7): the most common longer-chain form, found in fermented foods
When choosing a Vitamin K2 supplement, you’ll most likely want to look for MK-7 since most MK-4 supplements are synthetic and not derived from natural foods containing MK-4, except for one. Along with including pastured animal fat, butter and eggs in my diet, I also take a daily MK-4 and MK-7 Vitamin K2 supplement, since I’d have to eat some pretty sizeable portions of these foods to obtain enough Vitamin K2. The only MK-4 supplement I trust is Green Pasture brand High Vitamin Butter Oil derived from pastured cows. I personally prefer the capsules over the oil, both of which can be found here. I also take Jarrow Formulas MK-7 derived from fermented natto, which can be found on Amazon or various other online vitamin/supplement retailers. I take my Vitamin K2 supplements together with my daily dose of fermented cod liver oil since fermented cod liver oil is a natural, food-supplement source of Vitamin D and the two work synergistically in the body. You can read more about Vitamin K2 and dosages here and here.
What about Milk? It Does a Body Good, Right?
That depends… If you’re still drinking fat-free skim milk, or consuming fat-free dairy, like all those 0% fat yogurts, then you’re not getting much nutrition; you’re basically consuming sugar (lactose) water. (Did you know that according to the American Diabetes Association, a recommended treatment for hypoglycemia/low blood sugar is to consume a cup of non-fat or 1% milk?! What does that tell you?!) Sure, there is a little protein and some calcium in skim milk, but as we’ve learned above, calcium needs Vitamin D and Vitamin K2 to provide any benefit to our bodies. Most milk these days is fortified with Vitamin D, but read those labels because many are fortified with Vitamin D2 (which is pretty useless to us) rather than the D3 form. However, Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, meaning it requires fat for our bodies to absorb it, and since there is no fat in fat-free dairy, we’re not really absorbing and utilizing those nutrients we think we’re getting.
Low-fat dairy is only marginally better than fat-free dairy. But if you tolerate dairy and are going to consume it, your best choice nutritionally is un-pasteurized/raw, full-fat milk and dairy products from pastured/grass-fed cows. Since many cannot obtain raw milk in their state or are uncomfortable with consuming raw dairy products, your next best choices are full-fat whole milk, cheese and yogurt from grass-fed cows. I’ve said before that I do not consume milk, but I do consume some yogurt and cheeses. My favorite yogurt is the Strauss Family Creamery brand. I also love Kerrygold brand grass-fed cheeses (which I get at Costco) and butter, but my favorite butter is Organic Valley pastured butter.
Is dairy necessary for calcium? Absolutely not! Many have dairy intolerances or choose to not consume it. Other sources of calcium include:
- Homemade bone broth/stock-drink plain or use to make soups
- Egg shells-dry them and pulverize them into a powder and add to soups or smoothies
- Dark, leafy greens such as spinach, kale, bok choy and collard greens
- Canned salmon with bones
- Nuts-almonds, brazil nuts and macadamias are best